International Adoption Facts

Many families adopt children from other countries to live in the United States. Between 1971 and 2001 more than a quarter million children were adopted from foreign countries -- the largest number of children who were adopted. International adoption allows children from impoverished countries to change the course of their lives. Understand basic facts about international adoption by learning about the process.


Adoptions increased in the United States after 1945 -- the year WWII concluded. Americans began adopting orphan children from Japan and European countries. Additional war time conflicts in Greece, Korea and Vietnam increased intercountry adoptions. However, The Adoption Institute also cites social upheaval and poverty as reasons for the increase in international adoptions. Latin America, China and Eastern European Countries all have a large amount of intercountry adoptions on a yearly basis.

Basic Facts

More than 90 percent of international adoptions include infants and children under the age of 5 years old. Girls outnumber boys in international adoptions due to the large number of adopted girls in China. Families in China favor male heirs and there is a one child per household rule, causing many infant girls to be abandoned. Overall, 64 percent of adopted children are girls and 36 percent are males. The top five primary sending countries as of the US State Department’s 2009 statistics are China, Ethiopia, Russia, South Korea and Guatemala.


International adoptions begin around $15,000 and can exceed over $40,000. The least expensive adoptive countries do not require adoptive parents to reside abroad during the process or visit for lengthy stays. Administrative fees include costs for facilitator fees, visas and medical exams. Travel expenses, including airfare, lodging and meals, make up a large portion of the remainder of the fees.

Hague Adoption Convention

Enforced since 2008, The Hague Adoption Convention ensures additional safeguards for intercountry adoptions. Member countries who both have signed the adoption resolutions must work with accredited adoption agencies. The Department of the State designated the Council on Accreditation and the Colorado Department of Human Services to perform the accreditation process. The convention states adoptive parents must perform 10 hours of training prior to traveling overseas to complete the adoption. The convention also requires increased communication concerning adoption fees and medical records. China, Guatemala, India and Thailand are members of the Hague Adoption Convention. South Korea, Ethiopia, and Russia have not joined the treaty as of 2010.

Special Considerations

According to The Adoption Guide, health and background records are often incomplete in international adoptions. Because of some countries’ political and governmental struggles, open international adoptions may close without much legal notice to adoptive parents. Allow children to better understand their cultural background by teaching them about the history and culture of their home country and provide them with opportunities to meet people with the same ethnic backgrounds during their childhood and early adult years.